May 29, 2018
Rick King and Mark Longinotti are two key members of Elite’s regulatory compliance team. They perform testing and complete certifications of transmitters for Elite clients who want to sell their products in the US, Canada, European Union, and globally. Recently, Elite’s Stacey Klouda sat down for an interview with Mark and Rick to ask them how their jobs have changed in the 20 years that each has been at Elite.
Stacey K: So between you two guys, you have a combined 40 years of experience, and your whole time here you’ve dealt exclusively with government EMC regulations. That’s a lot of time spent reading FCC regulations…I assume you sleep well after pouring through regulations every day?
Mark L: EMC regulations are definitely not on the New York Times best sellers list. They’re not on any best-of list…
Rick K: For sure it’s one of the toughest parts of the job, staying current with all the changes. And every country has a unique rule that we have to understand. Some country regulations look alike; some are slightly or completely different, whether it’s FCC, Canada, or the EU. They’re also constantly changing and often written rules don’t provide a clear answer, which means we have to look for guidance documents, precedence, and good engineering judgments to apply the right test.
Mark L: Our job can seem a bit like putting a puzzle together in that you read the regulations then look in another procedure or linked document for more guidance, then look at how it applies to the product, followed by talking to the customer about how this would apply to their device. Repeat…rinse…repeat…etc. In a profession where we strive to give pass-fail results and answers, dealing with the occasional uncertainty about rules and regulations is a real challenge.
Rick K: I’d say this job can seem more like a crime scene investigation [laughing]
Mark L: Huh…”CSI.” Are you talking about dealing with the FCC/EU standards or are you trying to tell me what’s in store for me after working with you for so long?
Stacey K: What was your impression when you first joined Elite?
Mark L: Well, since that was 21 years ago I was a lot younger than I am now. I recall being excited about the new opportunity but slightly overwhelmed with the amount of expertise that’s required to be a good regulatory test engineer. We had several older EMC engineers “curmudgeons” who seemed to know everything. I guess I’m one of those curmudgeons now.
Rick K: The Company was a big mystery to me. I had no experience with EMC testing and did not really know what it was, but was curious about the measurements and equipment and recognized the potential for my role and career with Elite.
Mark L: I remember that there was a lot of “stuff” on the shelves. It was kind of like the TV show “American Pickers” where there were just racks and racks of old stuff packed up to the ceiling. But all that has been moved out and now every available square inch of space is used for actual testing. The place looks so much different than when I started. Even with all the changes, we could still use more space. I could also use a well-appointed corner office with a skyscraper view of Lake Michigan…
Stacey K: What’s the biggest change in your work seen since you started?
Rick K: There’s no question about it; transmitters are everywhere and in everything now. Nearly all products we see in our lab have some kind of wireless connectivity.
Mark L: When I started we were testing transmitters but they were more simple devices like garage door openers or remote call buttons type devices. For sure we tested licensed radios, Part 90 devices, and Part 68 devices, but still compared to today those test items were relatively straightforward.
Rick K: Technology is constantly changing. Our challenge is trying to stay current. It seems like every year there’s something different in our lab. We’re seeing a wide range of transmitter types like Bluetooth, Zigbee, WiFi, NFC, and LoRA, and each of them has its own unique modulation schemes, spread spectrum or wide band spread, channel configurations, and so on.
Mark L: As an EMC engineer in this group, you have to think on your feet, and quickly. When products come to us for testing we have to switch gears from our last project and instantly be familiar with the next product, next application, and next regulation. It’s not a “cookie-cutter” kind of EMC test job. You really have to multi-task and quickly switch your brain to the next set of standards and technologies.
Rick K: Our test equipment is much more advanced than ever, and we use it to be efficient and competitive. But we still have to perform many of our measurements manually. Sometimes we have to confirm readings using calculations and be able to spot results that don’t appear accurate. It’s important to leverage the speed and efficiency of our test equipment and automation but still, we have to make sure we’re getting correct results.
Stacey K: What’s next for Mark and Rick?
Mark L: I’m hoping to be more of a mentor and teacher of our newer engineers. If they can tolerate me. [laughing]
Rick K: I’m pretty eager to learn more about our new wireless testing capabilities. With our new fully anechoic CTIA complaint chamber there are measurements for TIR, TRP, and antenna pattern mapping that I would like to learn and broaden my range of knowledge. I’ve wanted to pick up more background on this aspect of wireless measurements because I’m hearing more about the importance of these measurements with respect to regulatory compliance. So I’m ready to dig in when the time comes.
Mark L: There’s definitely an air of excitement here at Elite with the changes and new services coming online. I’m pretty keyed up to seeing it all come together and being a part of something new and significant for our company.
Rick K: You’re such the company guy Mark. [laughing]